Spring Valley Water Rights
In 1989 the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) submitted water rights applications in five hydrographic basins (Spring, Snake, Delamar, Dry Lake, and Cave valleys) as part of a proposed project to develop a water conveyance system through Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine counties. The purpose of the project is to convey up to 155,000 acre-feet per year (afy) of groundwater from Lincoln and White Pine counties to help meet Southern Nevada’s water needs. Of this amount, up to 122,000 afy would be developed by SNWA and the remaining capacity would be reserved for Lincoln County. Population growth, drought, Southern Nevada’s reliance on the Colorado River, concerns about the effects of climate change, and other circumstances are among the reasons that SNWA is seeking to diversify its water resources portfolio to meet water supply obligations. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently being prepared for this right-of-way.
The Nevada State Engineer (NSE) held a hearing on SNWA’s Spring Valley water applications in September 2006. There were a total of 19 applications, totaling 91,224 afy. There were 163 protestants, and the NSE identified 44 issues. Several DOI agencies (BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs) were among the protestants. DOI and SNWA negotiated the Spring Valley Stipulated Agreement, and DOI subsequently withdrew its protest. The goals of the Agreement are to (1) manage the development of groundwater by SNWA without causing injury to federal water rights and/or unreasonable adverse effects to federal resources, including water-dependent ecosystems, (2) accurately characterize groundwater movement between Spring and Snake valleys, (3) avoid any effect on federal resources within the Great Basin National Park, including water-dependent ecosystems, and scenic values of and visibility from the park, and (4) avoid unreasonable adverse effects on water-dependent ecosystems and maintain biological integrity and ecological health. The agreement identifies a process for consultation by Parties (DOI and SNWA) to address concerns about adverse effects based upon monitoring results or predictions from groundwater modeling, and to determine mitigation actions that SNWA would take. The framework for developing hydrologic and biological monitoring, management, and mitigation plans were appended to the Agreement to meet the goals described above. Technical committees were formed and included subject experts from state agencies in Nevada and Utah.
Stipulated Agreement Monitoring Plans
Initial detailed hydrologic and biological monitoring plans were completed in February 2009 and are available to the public at the following websites: http//www.fws.gov/nevada and http://www.snwa.com/.
Hydrologic Monitoring Plan
The hydrologic monitoring plan calls for monitoring of several wells: (1) quarterly monitoring of 10 existing wells and continuous monitoring of 15 existing wells in Spring Valley and Hamlin Valley hydrographic areas, (2) six new wells in the Interbasin Monitoring Zone (a zone identified to characterize the hydraulic gradient between Spring, Hamlin, and Snake valleys), in addition to four existing wells in the Zone that will continue to be monitored, (3) two new wells between the Zone and future SNWA production wells, and (4) two new wells in the vicinity of Shoshone Ponds. Hydrologic monitoring will also occur at 13 spring locations:
|4WD Spring||Blind Spring||Keegan Spring||Layton Spring|
|Minerva Spring||Rock Spring||South Millick Spring||Stonehouse Spring|
|Swallow Spring||The Seep||West Spring Valley Complex 1||Willow Spring|
|Unnamed 5 Spring|| || || |
The plan also calls for monitoring at Big Springs, pending approval of private property access. Details of these monitoring activities, as well as descriptions of additional monitoring, are provided in detail in the hydrologic monitoring plan.
Biological Monitoring Plan
The biological monitoring plan calls for monitoring at 25 sites within the Initial Biological Monitoring Area (an area encompassing Spring Valley, as well as portions of Hamlin and Snake valleys):
|Stonehouse Springs Complex||Willow Spring||Unnamed 5 Spring||4WD Spring|
|Keegan Ranch Springs Complex||South Millick Spring||Willard Spring||Swallow Spring|
|West Spring Valley Complex||Minerva Spring Complex||Clay Spring-North||Unnamed 1 Spring|
|North Little Spring||Shoshone Ponds||Big Spring Complex||The Seep|
|Blind wetland/meadow||Burbank wetland/meadow|| || |
|2 swamp cedar woodland locations in Spring Valley||3 phreatophytic shrubland locations in Spring Valley||1 phreatophytic shrubland location in Hamlin Valley||1 phreatophytic shrubland location in Snake Valley|
Details of what will be monitored at each site, as well as monitoring protocols and data management, are provided in the biological monitoring plan.
Spring Valley NSE Ruling
On April 16, 2007 the NSE issued a ruling on SNWA’s Spring Valley Applications (NSE Ruling 5726) in which SNWA was granted a total combined duty of 60,000 afy. SNWA must conduct a minimum of 5 years of baseline data collection before exporting any groundwater from Spring Valley. After that initial baseline period, SNWA can pump a maximum of 40,000 afy for a minimum of 10 years. After the 10-year pumping period, the NSE will evaluate the data collected during this time and make a determination regarding the remaining 20,000 afy. The ruling also addresses the issues brought by the protestants, and describes additional monitoring and mitigation required by the NSE.
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